In earlier times it was believed that a courthouse should express the full majesty of the law. Upon crossing the threshold of the halls of justice the subject should feel small and insignificant. And, if sentenced to gaol, the citizen as convict should be hidden away from the public as far as possible.
Removing a Kafkaesque labyrinth
We rejected this traditional understanding of justice, in architectural terms too, and made a number of radical interventions in the Salzburg courthouse building.
The 19th century palace-like building is a listed monument; we opened it up, demolished the prisons cells from the 1970s (the prison facility was moved to Puch-Urstein on the outskirts of the city) and removed the Kafkaesque internal labyrinth in which visitors almost inevitably lost their way.
We carefully adapted the characteristic language of this palace-like complex and opened the building towards the city by activating all the entrances and erecting a new, Y-shaped link in the courtyard from where you can now enter the complex via the main entrance. We have accommodated all the negotiation rooms in this bridge building that is positioned between the existing wings.
Now a striking justice centre opens towards the city on all sides. With its internal courtyards it presents the court in a new light: passers-by can now enter the building and admire it. It is transparent and open, reflecting the way we imagine jurisdiction in a democracy.
Using a varied arrangement of terraces, bridges, staircases and sunken courtyards, we have created a complex contemporary composition of urban and spatial design with an appealing tonality, enclosed in a relaxed way by a listed ‘ring of buildings’.
By opening up the complex in a way that seems circumspect from the conservationist’s viewpoint but is perceived by the public as significant, we eliminate the old building’s authoritarian, hermetic character, in the process meshing it with the heterogeneous spaces of Salzburg’s old town.
The building is made clearer and easier to grasp and offers new routes and new insights and outlooks – in more senses than one.